Environmental Speech – 11/03/07

I had planned on putting this up, and my dad reminded me that I never emailed it to him. This solves both problems.

Written by Neil Ahrendt, Delivered November 3rd, 2007


                I have to apologize in advance for not having any sort of PhD or doctorate in climatology. I’m not really an expert on anything, nor have I extensively researched the factuality of numerous claims or written for scientific journals or anything of the sort. When I told people about this event, most just paused for a second and asked why I exactly was speaking at a climate rally in Broadripple. Truth be told, I probably don’t have the credentials to be up here today. I’m just an ordinary 19-year-old kid, trying not to let studying and classes get in the way of my college life, and hoping that I can get this speech off right, considering it was written within the last 24 hours.

                But perhaps that’s all I need to be up here. You see, not all of us can be experts, and not all of us can be experienced climatologists. We’re all just normal people with day jobs and lives who hope that maybe we can make a difference. That’s what it’s going to take; normal, everyday people all over the world realizing that each one of us has the potential to make a difference in our community and in our environment. But it starts with us; we have to be the messengers, and we have to be the ones who start caring about this planet we live on enough to step out of our comfort zones and start taking action.

                As a member of the younger generation, I would be lying if I said I don’t have worries about the future. Of all the dramatic consequences of our delayed reactions, apathetic responses, and global indifference, we can no longer say “well, at least it won’t happen in my lifetime.” That deadline is drawing nearer; within the next half-century, the known gasoline reserves will be past the point of economic viability, water supplies round the world will dwindle into regional conflicts and territorial disputes, and the relative climate stability we’ve grown accustomed to will be all but a thing of the past. Dryer, longer summers will intensify the types of wildfires we’ve all be seeing on the news the past few weeks, more Southern states will vie for control as uncontrolled water usage reduces the available supplies to near-drought levels, and stronger storms will batter our coasts and cause more Hurricane-induced damage.

This is not a hare-brained conspiracy or devious liberal subversion plot; these are simple, logical predictions that follow pre-existing patterns we’re seeing now. For too long now, we have let the supposed hidden agendas of distinguished scientists become the areas of dispute, rather than their researched claims. For too long, we’ve let pundits and politicians and spokespeople announce that what we are seeing is merely a typical cycle the planet goes through, that there is no cause for concern and that those who say otherwise are doing so for political gain. For too long, we’ve let the argument be twisted and distorted, from “What should we do to prevent these catastrophes?” to “Why are we listening to these tree-hugging fanatics?” to “What’s all the fuss about, anyway? I wouldn’t mind if it was a little warmer out here, anyway.” But we can’t afford to argue these false points any longer; they serve only to remove accountability and to enable the global populace to continue living in irresponsible excess without a care to who will eventually foot the bill. Well, unfortunately, I will. My friends will. We all will. My generation will bear the brunt of a world polluted. We will see former tropical rainforests turned into barren landscapes, watch as the global marine ecologies diminish in both size and diversity, and watch as species round the world are pushed nearer to extermination  at unprecedented rates as we undergo what many scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction this planet has undergone.

It’s easy to be ignorant about the problems facing the world; not ignorant in the connotation of dumb or unknowledgeable, but rather simply ignoring the problems of today as a matter of convenience. It’s too expensive to save the world now; besides, America can only do so much when compared to the up-and-coming industrialized China or India. So let’s just go on with our lives and keep driving our “Blackwater Security”-surplus armored Denalis or Excursions or some other forty-foot behemoth of an SUV equipped not only to get from point A to point B but also to annihilate everything in between. Let’s keep burning fuels, throwing away recyclable goods, devastating natural habitats and polluting the water supply. Besides, it’s so cold outside: wouldn’t all this “global warming” nonsense be a good thing for us?

                Or maybe we should wise up and fix things before they get worse. Our parent generation always told us to clean up the mess we made and leave whatever place we inhabited cleaner than when we arrived. But it seems that advice has been all but disregarded by that very generation, as the current slew of politicians and pundits is hell-bent on leaving us the task of solving what could easily be the most pressing problem of the last few centuries. Without a concentrated and unified effort, vast ecological consequences will be created from our inaction and denial.

                For far too long, we have let this debate enter into a political forum, as though wanting to save the environment which we all share is a partisan position. We cannot let target demographics of a typical environmentalist define who we are, nor let our expectations and concerns be degraded by opponents in the political spectrum to the ranting and raving of over-zealous, fear-mongering hippies. This issue is not one of political affiliation, nor of race or ethnic background or age or economic status or sexual orientation or any other of a million labels we’ve been divided into. More than ever, now is not the time for division, now is the time for unity. Now is the time for the cacophony of noise emanating from concerned citizens round the globe to join into one single voice which calls out in demand for change.

                We must demand this of our leaders, our politicians, our friends, our families and ourselves. We must make commitments that do not always fit perfectly into the comfortable lives we have now. We must make a commitment to renew the spirit of innovation that led this country to the top of the global landscape; we as a nation must lead by example in saying that we will protect this world so that our children and generations after them can exist in a sustainable society which does not inherently damage the ground it resides on. We must rebuild our society so that the air we breathe is clean, the sky we look upon is clear, and the waters which run throughout are free from pollution.

                I’m just an ordinary kid hoping that somehow being here today and speaking can somehow make tomorrow a better place for myself and my generation and those who follow. But it will take more than hope to right the situation we have found ourselves in. Our cause does not start and end with this rally. We must continue this struggle tomorrow and the day after and carry with us this dedication to the preservation of this planet, its resources and its life forever onward, that maybe it might be instilled into the hearts of those around us. Like most of you, I am just an ordinary person trying to make a difference. I’m asking you now, please join me. Thank you.



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